Committee head: Support for US aid to Ukraine ‘overwhelming’
Apr 3, 2023, 12:48 PM
(AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — The head of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee said Monday that there is “overwhelming” support in the United States to continue supplying aid to Ukraine in its fight against Russia, despite vocal opposition from a hard-right faction of his own Republican Party.
Rep. Michael Turner, the Republican chairman of the committee, which serves as the House’s main body for overseeing American intelligence organizations, spoke alongside three other GOP congressmen during a brief visit to Kyiv.
“There are those on the left and on the right who question continued support or the amount of support. That will certainly be part of the debate,” Turner said. “But overwhelmingly, there is support for continuing aid to Ukraine, so that they can continue to fight against this aggression of Russia.”
The trip to the Ukrainian capital was the latest effort from top-ranking Republicans in the House, who are laying the groundwork for continued U.S. assistance but facing opposition in their own ranks. Emboldened by former President Donald Trump’s “America First” approach, many on the right are clamoring for the Ukraine aid to come to an end, creating the potential for a politically bruising fight when the current American assistance runs out.
For instance, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a likely Trump rival for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, recently suggested that defending Ukraine in a “territorial dispute” with Russia was not a significant U.S. national security priority. He later walked that statement back following criticism from other members of the party.
With the war in Ukraine now entering its second year, Rep. Chris Stewart of Utah said the American people would continue supporting aid as long as U.S. resources were being used judiciously.
“This is going to take some time,” he said of the war. “That’s not surprising. Most conflicts such as this between nation-states take time to resolve themselves. I think the American people understand that, as long as they feel like progress is being made over being careful with the money and being thoughtful of how we involve U.S. resources.”
Stewart, who is also on the intelligence committee, said NATO members should also fulfill their commitment to spend 2% of their gross domestic product on defense.
“Most of them have not done that except for a few of the smaller countries,” Stewart said. “The American people also look at this and go, ‘This is in Europe’s backyard. They should be at least as invested in this as we are.’ And I don’t know that we can assure them right now that that’s the case.”
Rep. Rich McCormick of Georgia noted that nations have rallied to Ukraine’s support.
“For the first time, maybe ever, countries were talking about putting pressure on each other and holding each other accountable inside of NATO,” said the congressman, who is a member of the House Armed Services Committee. “There is a new sort of urgency that never existed before, that I think you’re seeing Europe actually step up to the plate like they’ve never done before.”
The fourth member of the delegation to Kyiv, Rep. Darin LaHood of Illinois, another member of the intelligence committee, said the visit to Ukraine was aimed at observing the situation on the ground from “the illegal, unprovoked war that Putin engaged in here.”
That, he said, “will help us as we go back and have to make decisions on further funding and further support for this conflict.”
Also in Kyiv to underline the importance of support for Ukraine was former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who joins a long list of potential Republican candidates for the presidential nomination.
“Why is it that the United States should expand its resources and its people’s resources to support the effort here that you all are engaged in? I think it is pretty straightforward,” Pompeo said Monday during an event organized by prominent Ukrainian businessman Victor Pinchuk. “If we have learned one singular thing” that is that “when bad guys begin to march, they do not stop marching.”
Asked about the dissenting voices in the United States, Pompeo said that “your president has asked for equipment. He hasn’t asked for our young men and women. So long as we stay in that place, I’m convinced that most American leaders will see it that way and will support the continued efforts.”